Snowdon’s backing for ‘high cost exclusive group’

Part of $2m project ‘poor value for money’ in view of department panel

 

By ERWIN CHLANDA

 

“Select and train a small group of Indigenous distance runners who will compete in a series of distance running events around the world.”

 

Nice work if you can get it. Someone did – former world champion marathon runner Robert “Deek” de Castella, and the rest is history. Well, not quite.

 

Warren Snowdon, Lingiari sitting Member and ALP candidate in Saturday’s election, has been a keen supporter of Mr de Castella’s project.

 

Alice Springs sporting identity John Bell is in a bitter pay dispute with Mr de Castella.

 

A letter from the Department of Health and Ageing, given to the Alice Springs News Online by Mr Bell, shows the department spent $2,150,879 on the Indigenous Marathon Project, in three grants between April 2010 and June 2011. The amount for the third grant was $1,649,614.

 

Some of the money – $200,000 – was applied for to send 10 young Indigenous people to the New York Marathon in November 2011. It seems only four went.

 

The funding application by Smartstart for Kids Limited – Indigenous Marathon Project was made to the Indigenous Sport and Recreation Program (ISRP) under the auspices of then Minister for Sport, Mark Arbib.

 

The departmental panel assessing the application did not think that the project was a good idea, but Mr Arbib did.

 

Said the panel: The application meets ISRP objectives to “a low degree” and “the project demonstrated limited and short term broader community engagement … the proposed budget demonstrated poor value for money by catering for an exclusive group in a high cost manner and therefore poses a financial risk. The high cost of travel is a prohibitor. As per the ISRP conditions, international travel and accommodation is not permitted to be funded.”

 

Mr Arbib clearly would have none of such negative talk: according to the departmental documents leaked to Mr Bell, Mr Arbib “requested the Office for Sport to negotiate with this organisation to include their program in the Annual Funding Round” and the Minister “approved funding of $200,000.”

 

It is not clear that Warren Snowdon, Minister for Indigenous Health, had a role in intervening but he could not have been more pleased. On November 8, 2010 he trumpeted in a joint media release with Mr Arbib: “Four young men from remote Northern Australia have become the nation’s first Aboriginal marathon team to complete the world-famous New York City Marathon … I am delighted that all four runners completed this gruelling race.”

 

The pair followed up on February 17, 2011: “Outstanding natural long-distance runners are being sought to join Rob de Castella’s Indigenous Marathon Project and run in this year’s world-famous New York City Marathon, the Minister for Indigenous Health, Warren Snowdon, said today.

 

“This is a great chance for six male and four female Indigenous runners to fly to New York in November with the squad.”

 

By mid-year the third grant to the project of over $1.5m was made.

 

The Alice Springs News Online has asked the Department of Health and Ageing for comment.

 

Picture by Dan Himbrechts, Adelaide Now. Robert De Castella with (left to right) Charlie Maher, Juan Darwin and Caleb Hart.

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4 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. John Melton
    Posted September 15, 2013 at 11:52 pm

    I am surprised that such a negative and biased article should be released regarding such a positive Indigenous program.
    I am also suprised at the lack of accuracy of this article in regards to IMP operations, dollars spent and political decision making.
    Is the journalist so naive to believe that the program only benefits an ‘exclusive few’?
    The IMP is designed to create local and relevant community leaders who in turn influence their families, communities and the wider Australian public. With regards to a completely separate funding stream all together and in regard to Mr Arbib, isn’t this why we have ministers?
    To make the tough calls. Subsequent to obtaining ISARP funding, the IMP’s program is now ranked in the top 10 in Australia for Indigenous engagement and participation with thousands of Indigenous men, women, children, elderly and disabled having taken part in its operations since inception.
    I guess Mr Arbib knew it was a good idea at the time and made a judgement call.
    We should be supporting such positive programs rather than sniping them with meaningless gossip influenced by inaccurate information.
    [ED – There is no “meaningless gossip” in our report. It quotes from a departmental document.]

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  2. DD
    Posted September 5, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    Warren Snowdon has spent many years doing nothing for his voters (mainly us mob) and IF he gets in this time, he’ll have the chance to do even more of nothing. What a good and happy life he has had at our expense.

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  3. Peta
    Posted September 4, 2013 at 11:57 am

    This is amazing. On one hand I applaud the work that and funding that is given to promote inclusion and support for Indigenous Australians in the sporting arena however, on the other I am appalled at this amount of funding to support an “exclusive few” when so many of the smaller communities cannot access any or very limited funding to support their local community sporting teams.
    As for Mr Baxter’s comments re the grants for the upgrade of the Alice Springs facilities I would disagree, and applaud the CLP’s acknowledgement of the urgent need for these upgrades due to the previous ALP government overall neglect of Central Australia.

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  4. Edan Baxter
    Posted September 3, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    I don’t object to the highlighting of Pork Barrel Politics or wrong-headed handouts in general but AS News could have been a bit more even-handed given we are now into the final sprint of this election marathon …
    Mention could have been made to some of the CLP’s recent announcements … The ol’ $445,000 to upgrade sporting facilities … and the more targeted $225,000 for the Alice Springs Tennis Club.
    Another article prior to the election please Erwin …
    (Note: I definitely reckon the Alice Springs Tennis Association does a great job and the sport is well patronised. The upgraded facilities will be a bonus for the 598 registered players.)
    [ED – Hi Edan, we reported the grants to tennis and footy. There was no objection to those by the bureaucracy, to my knowledge.]

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